Hematopoietic (blood transfusion) stem cell transplantation uses stem cells to treat blood cancers like leukaemias, autoimmune disorders like sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, and some neurological disorders. Stem cells are immature cells that can take up the function of any targeted cells or tissues and help regrow. Stem cells are acquired from a related or blood-matched donor or the same person who needs treatment. It can be performed on individuals of all age groups.
Bone marrow transplant, stem cell therapy
Blood, the bone marrow of the hip bone, and umbilical cord blood
The blood type and group are matched with a donor whose blood is further tested for the number of stem cells present. This is known as allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Stem cells may be obtained from circulating blood, the bone marrow of the hip bone, and/or blood from the umbilical cord of a growing fetus. The bone marrow is taken out through a small incision made around the hip bone. Bone marrow cells are collected and processed for stem cell therapy. The stem cells obtained are transferred to the recipient through blood transfusion for a duration of 1-2 hours.
When stem cells are obtained from the same individual undergoing treatment, it is known as autologous stem cell transplantation. Blood from one arm is drawn and transferred back into the body through the other arm after being processed for stem cells.
Surgical invasive and blood transfusion
After discharge from the hospital, one needs to have regular follow-up consultations with their oncologist, surgeon, and dietician to monitor progress and complete the treatment protocol. The donor may need to have a follow-up for stitch removal in case of bone marrow extraction.
Supervised rehabilitation sessions with a physiotherapist may be indicated in most cancer cases. Individuals with cancer may need to continue with their existing treatment protocol like radiation and chemotherapy as per the doctor.
Bone marrow donors and their recipients may need to stay in hospital for 3-5 days. The donors may experience discomfort, pain, and tenderness around the operated site for a couple of weeks, and these signs usually resolve spontaneously.
Stem cell recipients need to undergo a strict routine of nutrition, exercise, and monitoring the symptoms of distress and infection because of the body’s reaction to the stem cells received. The entire process of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation takes anywhere between 6-12 months for the stem cells to take over the function of host tissues and produce healthy blood.